Eight Chapters, Thousands of Members, One Voice

On Big-Ticket Bonds & Budgets: Establishing a Loading Order for Water

fire.ca.govMark Twain, noted California chronicaler and climatologist (“The coldest winter I ever saw was the Summer I spent in San Francisco…“) might not have actually made the telling remark that “Whisky’s for drinking and water’s for fighting over,” but whoever did was certainly on the mark.

California faces huge problems with water. We’ve long been warned about the murky history of Owens River water and that we live in a Cadillac Desert. Currently 80% of the state is under extreme drought conditions, and with a changing climate and growing population, this is not a situation that will get better on its own. While Coastal California concerns itself with transitioning browning lawns to badges of honor, the Central Valley is literally sinking as farmers pump groundwater at increasingly higher levels.

We’re talking about land subsidence due to the compaction of the aquifer system, which is a result of lowering ground water levels, which is mostly caused by pumping,” said hydrologist Michelle Sneed of the U.S. Geological Survey. As BakersfieldNow.com notes, the groundwater pumping is also affecting the way we move water on the surface. The sinking valley is damaging water canals that bring water to thirsty Southern California, and also protect us from flooding in wet years. If flood control channels are damaged by subsiding land, they will not be able to properly direct water flow away from the towns and cities in the Central Valley.

California is the only state in the western United States that does not regulate groundwater pumping, and water management and policy throughout the years has been a “backwater” of questionable agricultural practices, “un-metering” and promotion of expensive, unsustainable storage facilities. The time has come for all of us to take responsibility for our watershed. Just like with energy (& energy efficiency) policy, we need a Loading Order, a weighting of prioirties as we formulate hugely expensive water bonds, referendums and budgets.

Our Loading Order for Water would include:

Efficiency/Conservation programs at the local utility level (wPACE, On-Bill, etc.)
Centralized and/or onsite recycling and reuse at the local utility level
Existing Water Storage maintenance (dredging, seismic retrofit)
Stormwater capture and management
Groundwater/Aquifer remediation and recharge programs
Watershed management (regional)
Delta Sustainability
Urban River restoration and management

USGBC California recognizes that water and effective, sustainable water policy is worth fighting over (our views on whisky are somewhat mixed, although I personally can vouch for bourbon-marinated grilled corn). We have a great model with California energy policy’s hierarchy emphasizing efficiency first and foremost and then sustainable, distributed generation. Let’s use it towards building a better water future. Click on the letter image above to get the PDF file.

USGBC Sungevity PS_Tag

Project Sunshine: Sungevity Passes $1.5M Raise

USGBC Sungevity PS_TagUSGBC California and the eight California Chapters are relatively new to the Sungevity partnership, but we are starting to see results. Here’s a report of their milestone achievement with us and other NGOs.

From The Huffington Post  | By

Sungevity, Inc., a company created to allow homeowners to design their own solar power systems through an online process, announced Wednesday that they had reached a key milestone with their nonprofit partners.

The company’s partnership program, Sungevity.org, works with nonprofit organizations to raise money for their causes while encouraging their members to choose Sungevity for their solar installations. Sungevity has now donated more than $1.5 million to nonprofits ranging from the Sierra Club and Save the Frogs to schools and science centers. To celebrate reaching this milestone, the company will announce Wednesday that it is making a $50,000 donation to their local food bank in California, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and adding them as a partner nonprofit. The ACCFB serves a sixth of Alameda County residents and distributes 450,000 meals worth of food every week.

For each customer that installs solar with Sungevity, the company will donate to their nonprofit of choice. “Every home that we get to go solar, Sungevity gives us $750 back,” said Sierra Club Chief of Staff Jesse Simons said in a Sungevity.org promotional video. “This has been a great revenue-generating tool for the Sierra Club.”

Sungevity.org works with 115 participating nonprofits, and estimates that the program has helped offset 322,436 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions — equivalent to planting more than 7.5 million trees. The company touts the program as more than just a fundraising tool for nonprofits, but a way for them to help their members help the environment.

“Going solar through the program gives non-profit partners a personal action to promote to their supporters, empowering them to take positive action that helps stymie climate change while simultaneously helping to raise funds for their specific cause,” Renu Mathias, Sungevity’s director of affinity marketing, told the Huffington Post.

The solar industry in the United States is growing as costs continue to fall, and 2013 was a record year for new photovoltaic installations. SungeSolar Fundraisingvity offers systems that homeowners can purchase outright and a residential solar lease program, an arrangement in which a third party owns the panels and the homeowner pays a lease or simply buys the energy from the panel owners. Solar leasing is a growing trend as a way to finance solar without bearing all the upfront costs of buying and maintaining equipment. Sungevity believes that solar will continue to grow through their “solar social” strategy. “Ultimately, solar customers will help to rapidly scale solar’s uptake,” Mathias told HuffPost.

Sungevity is one of many small businesses working social impact into their mission. Many states are now allowing companies to incorporate as a “benefit corporation,” or B Corps, which formalizes their commitment to social impact in addition to profit. B Lab, a nonprofit, has certified more than 900 companies, including Sungevity. These companies, according to the B Corps website, are dedicated to using “the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.”

“The $1.5 million we have generated for nonprofit organizations through this initiative underscores how solar can be a force for social change beyond the immediate environmental benefits of lowering the collective carbon footprint,” said Sungevity founder and CEO Andrew Birch in a press release.

USGBC PolicyPalooza Logo 2014

PolicyPalooza 2014

USGBC PolicyPalooza Logo 2014 That special time is coming near: PolicyPalooza! Our annual Advocacy Day will be concurrent with the Green California Summit and promises to be a great big three-ring circus of fun, featuring our Day at the Capital, the Advocates Luncheon and the Green Hard Hat Awards Reception as well as special Green California Summit keynotes from Building Health Initiative leader Anne Simpson of CalPERS and Wade Crowfoot of the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research. In addition to the USGBC California booth (#608) on the exhibit floor, there will be USGBC “Greenbuild-style” presentations on Prop 39 programs, school water management, “Grey, Purple, Green” water policy, “Last Mile” code discussions and reports from USGBC Northern California Chapter’s Building Health Initiative.

USGBC Advocates from around the state will gather at the Capital for over 70 meetings and discuss “mainstreaming” topics like driving sustainable market transformation, specifying healthier building materials,  fostering innovative building permit delivery and enforcement metrics, codifying foundational greywater and recycled water plumbing and leveraging building energy data beyond the benchmark.

The Class of 2014 Green Hard Hat Awardees features water policy leader Assemblymember Mike Gatto (legislative sponsor of the dual-use plumbing “Purple Pipe” bill, AB 2282), energy efficiency policy leader Assemblymember Das Williams (sponsor of  the “Last Mile” energy code enforcement legislation, AB 1918) and Dan Burgoyne of the Department of General Services, point person for implementing the Governor’s Executive Order B-18-12 on State BuildingsResiliency_Doug and Ann_sm and statewide water management and other worthy initiatives. These notables follow in the footsteps of past champions like Governor Brown Senators Kevin de Leon,  Fran Pavley and Darrell Steinberg, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

A great, exhausting time will be sure to be had by all. We’ll be posting scenes of Green Hard Hat wearing in the near future.






Pacific Regional Summit a Great Big Gaucho Hit


There is always something special about a gathering of the USGBC tribe, and this past weekend’s Pacific Region Summit was no exception. In fact, it was exceptional. Chapter leaders from California, Nevada and Hawaii, met with each other and Doug Widener and Ryan Snow of USGBC’s Community and addressed the subject of Chapter rejuvenation, sharing successes (NCC’s Building Health Initiative, San Diego’s GAP program, C4’s Smart Trailer and Inland Empire’s Workforce Training Program) and digging into areas needing attention (volunteer burnout, member engagement, innovative fundraising strategies).

After an ice-breaking round of Pecha Kucha presentations Friday night, attendees were treated by a talk by Patagonia’s “Chief Story Teller” Vincent Jackson on sustaining and embedding moral responsibility throughout a business. The full Saturday program on the wonderful Woodmont College campus featured Host/MC Paul Poirier highlighting Santa Barbara’s environmental history from the great oil spill onward, USGBC leader extraordinaire Kevin Hydes keynote relating twenty years of USGBC to present day issues, greetings from Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and a multi-threaded USGBC California advocacy briefing.

With occasional breaks to enjoy the great weather, Saturday’s session continued with a number of presentations and  involved group discussion around more fully realizing USGBC’s transformative mission and vision. Safe to say that all who attended (and all were sad that organizers Lorraine Alexander and  Marc Costa were called away to other coasts, countries and circumstances) came away with much warmth…for the people “on the phone” they are aligned with throughout the Pacific and the country, from the spectacular weather and from the renewed enthusiasm that comes from added perspective and personal interaction with so many stellar people.

USGBC Member Survey 2014

Make Your Voice Heard: It’s Member Survey Time!

USGBC Member Survey 2014 With a new year comes new challenges.  2013 saw the passage of two USGBC California-sponsored initiatives (AB 127 & AB 341), the continuation of other efforts like Prop 39,  CO2toEE and AB 758, and the start of movement in other focus areas like deep water reductions, healthier materials and “last mile” energy code enforcement. As we progress in these efforts, we need your help, encouragement and active involvement. Completing this survey is a great first step towards beginning a dialogue towards transforming the built environment. We want to know what you issues you care about, what we should be focusing our efforts on, and what kind of geographic distribution our advocates occupy. Go to www.tinyurl.com/membervoice to make your voice heard.

Purple: Where Gray makes Green

Scaling up the purple pipe system statewide has the potential to stabilize California’s variable groundwater reserves.  Creating a sustainable and comprehensive statewide system fosters predictable service levels for California’s industrial, commercial, and residential end users.

Water is critical to the health of our family, friends and neighbors and the strength of our natural and built environment. California needs to create a comprehensive statewide strategy that prioritizes local, reliable, healthy and sustainable sources of water – today.

USGBC California Support of Energy Efficiency for All

Text of letter to Assemblymember Nancy Skinner in support of her AB1124.

USGBC California supports the Energy Efficiency for All bill, AB 1124 (Skinner), which would make improvements to multifamily rental apartment heating and hot water systems eligible for financial assistance through the Low-Income Energy Efficiency (LIEE) program administered by the CPUC.

Under current law and CPUC practice, the heating and hot water systems of multifamily rental apartment buildings are excluded from assistance from the ratepayer-funded LIEE program. Excluding multifamily rental apartment heating and hot water systems from LIEE is not only an issue of equity (low-income owners have no such limitations, but renters do), it is fundamentally one of energy conservation. Heating and hot water systems represent one of the largest consumers of energy in most multifamily buildings. Moreover, nearly half of eligible low-income households live in multifamily buildings, such as apartments. As a result, current law and policy represent a huge, missed energy conservation opportunity.

AB 1124 makes improvements to multifamily rental buildings heating and hot water systems eligible for financial assistance from the LIEE program—but limits such access to those buildings subject to deed-restrictions or other affordability covenants (to avoid any perception that such assistance could lead to windfalls for landlords). In addition, AB 1124 would encourage increased leveraging of other funds, greater cost-effectiveness, administrative efficiency, and reduced barriers to accessing LIEE funds.

Looking into High Speed Rail: Via Spain?

California Watch, a nonprofit/nonpartisan reporting group operated by the Center for Investigative Reporting, has a series of thoughtful background pieces about Spain’s experience with high-speed rail. Worth looking into after Governor Brown’s support for California’s embattled High Speed Rail Authority.

Spain’s high-speed rail system offers lessons for California

Politics, not funding, drove growth of Spain’s high-speed rail

California High-Speed Rail Business Plan